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Miami-Dade County could become first in the country to support citizenship

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COULD BECOME FIRST IN THE COUNTRY TO SUPPORT CITIZENSHIP

County Commission Passed a Resolution Asking Mayor Gimenez to include Miami-Dade as the 1st County in the National Initiative “Cities for Citizenship”

MIAMI, FL – In a week full of important announcements coming from the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, the Florida Immigrant Coalition celebrates a resolution that could make this the 1st County in the country to join the “Cities for Citizenship” national initiative.

“Cities for Citizenship” is a major national initiative created in 2014, aimed at increasing citizenship among eligible U.S. permanent residents. In less than a year, 15 cities have joined the effort to promote citizenship, including Milwaukee, Atlanta, Nashville, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

The resolution supports the initiative and urges Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to create a program to increase naturalization rates in the county. Miami-Dade could be the first county in the nation to join the initiative, and the first local government in Florida to officially create a program to support it.

“For a long time, local and national non-profits have led naturalization efforts in the country; but we understand that in order for this to be sustainable and to really ensure that eligible permanent residents have the support they need to become new Americans and fully integrate to our country, local and state governments need to be involved,” says Francesca Menes, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

It is estimated that only 10% of the legal permanent residents (LPRs) that are eligible for citizenship, can follow through with the process. Out of the estimated 1.17 million eligible green card holders in Florida, about 494,000 reside in Miami-Dade County, many of them Cuban and Haitian. The low rates of naturalization are usually due to lack of access to information and legal assistance, or economic and language barriers that affect mostly low-income families.

We are grateful to the Board of County Commissioners for passing this resolution unanimously and supporting this initiative which could make Miami-Dade county a national leader in promoting the integration of new Americans into our economy and our communities,” adds Menes. “With Cities for Citizenship, Mayor Gimenez has in his hands an opportunity to support more than 19% or  half a million county residents and strengthen our local economy.

Recent research shows that naturalized immigrants nationally can achieve an increase in earnings of 8% to 11%. In Miami-Dade County, the average income is $23,174. If 247,000 of current eligible LPRs became citizens, the increase in earnings over 5 years is estimated to add between $2.3 billion and $3.2 billion to the local economy in Miami-Dade County. Those who gain citizenship are able to access more jobs, achieve economic mobility, and improve the livelihood of their families. However, the complexity of the process and the $680 in filing fees has been a barrier for those eligible, particularly low-income families.

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The Florida Immigrant Coalition is a statewide alliance of over 50 member organizations, including farmworkers, students, service providers, grassroots organizations and legal advocates, who come together for the fair treatment of all people, including immigrants.